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Why Is Trump Out to Ax Estate Taxes?

There’s a saying that applies to the most vociferous political opponents of the estate tax: Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.

Blogging Our Great Divide
August 30, 2016

by Chuck Collins

Every four years, Republican presidential candidates engage in a symbolic ritual of estate tax batting practice. Like George W. Bush and Mitt Romney of years past, Donald Trump is no different.

“No family will have to pay the death tax,” Trump said in Detroit. “We will repeal it.”

In fact, we shouldn’t repeal a tax that President Theodore Roosevelt advocated as a brake on the dangerous concentration of wealth and power. The estate tax is the only levy that America’s richest citizens will pay as they pass on great wealth to their heirs. Over the next decade, it will raise an estimated $270 billion, funds that can be invested in education and infrastructure to expand the wealth-building opportunities for the well-to-do and everyone else.

The tax on inheritances is limited — fewer than 2 in 1,000 estates is large enough to be subject to it. It isn’t a death tax: It targets a transfer of wealth, income or property, just as most federal taxes do. Nor is it a double tax: The bulk of the wealth subject to estate taxes is in appreciated capital assets and has never been subject to any tax.

It’s telling that the candidates who campaign on a platform of repealing the estate tax grew up in wealthy families where just such appreciated assets have made the tax a personal issue. Yet they cast themselves as examples of individual deservedness and success, everyday people who worked hard, paid their taxes and want to pass their already-taxed wealth on to their children.

Read the full article at the Los Angeles Times.

Chuck Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, where he co-edits the website He is author of the forthcoming book “Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good.”

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